With the schedule clearing up for the 'Caps, players who wish to get a run in the team must perform if given the nod in May 29th's second leg of the Canadian Championship final.
If the ‘Caps can pull off the victory at BC Place over the Montreal Impact, it sets the stage for some special nights in the coming months both in this city and abroad.
But there are also implications for many individuals in the squad -- with the schedule clearing up a bit, if the individuals selected for the final perform well, it could put an end to the lineup juggling act in Vancouver, and more importantly for the players involved, give them first-choice status in the weeks to come.
In goal, presumably Brad Knighton has a chance to truly lock down the No. 1 job. If the Richmond, Virginia, native can put together a strong performance in a winning result, it’s difficult to imagine head coach Martin Rennie going back to Joe Cannon.
In central defence, it will be interesting to see what combination Rennie goes with. Brad Rusin didn’t do himself any favours with his misplay against the Portland Timbers last weekend, so there’s likely a good chance that Johnny Leveron – who was suspended for that match – will come back in alongside Andy O’Brien, who has been arguably Vancouver’s best player thus far.
At right fullback, there’s no doubt the selection will be Lee Young-Pyo, who has performed relatively well at home despite his underwhelming form on the road.
On the other side of defence, there is less certainty. Jordan Harvey played strong in the first leg of this final in Montreal, helping the ‘Caps keep a clean sheet as part of a resolute backline performance against a capable and confident Impact side. A few weeks ago Alain Rochat would have been a sure starter here – but his strong showing at left midfield in the first leg of the final means Harvey could start at the back.
In the midfield, Rusin could come in at defensive midfield once again, but more likely it will be Jun Marques Davidson, who is a bit more comfortable if lacking a bit of dynamism in the middle.
As for the outright central midfielders playing in front of whoever the holding player is, Nigel Reo-Coker will likely partner Gershon Koffie – although there’s a chance Russell Teibert could be given the nod.
However, Teibert is likely to play on the right side of Vancouver’s attacking three, cutting in on his cultured left foot as he did to devastating effect against the LA Galaxy a couple of weeks back.
On the opposite side, the Whitecaps will be hoping designated player Kenny Miller returns from his wonky hamstring issues – but it’s difficult to imagine the Scotsman being capable of playing a full 90 minutes.
If he is fit, expect some sort of a role off the bench. That means the left side is a bit of a mystery. Rookies Kekuta Manneh and Erik Hurtado could be in contention for that role, or perhaps Daigo Kobayashi if his ankle clears up – more than likely, however, Rochat will play in that role after a strong showing in Montreal.
There’s also a possibility Camilo could drop back to the left side with Darren Mattocks coming back into the lineup as a centre forward – but that will be a tough decision to justify after the Brazilian’s strong performance up top against the Timbers, where he scored and set one up, and also added stronger hold up play than Mattocks typically provides.
So there are a number of lineup decisions to mull over for Rennie and his staff, but one thing is sure – if the team selected wins the cup, the group of players that comprises that lineup will likely become the de facto starters in the coming weeks.
If the selected lineup fails, however, you can expect the merry-go-round selection policy in Vancouver to resume indefinitely.